Friday, December 19, 2014

Community Foundation announces $4.4 million gift from Pincher area rancher Bill Long

Donor Bill Long gazes out on his Hereford cattle
Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta

Rural communities across southwestern Alberta will benefit from the $4.4 million estate bequest of Bill Long, a rancher from the Fishburn district southeast of Pincher Creek. The donation was announced at an event on December 19 that was attended by past and current board and staff members of the Community Foundation, community members and friends and family of Bill Long.

Bill was born in Fort Macleod in 1934 and was an only child, as his parents passed away tragically in a car accident in 1935. He survived the accident and was raised by his mother’s family, the Varleys, on their ranch south east of Pincher Creek. Bill and his uncle Henry ranched together, raising top quality Hereford cattle for many years. He came to think of his uncle as a father-figure and wanted to honour him for the important role he played in his life. His generous gift will be used to create the Henry Stewart Varley Fund for Rural Life at the Community Foundation.

Bill Long and his uncle Henry Varley ranched together for many years
“Henry was a real community man, he lived a good life and took care of Bill very well,” says Bill’s cousin Maxiene Bodgener. “Although Bill was Grandpa Varley’s responsibility, Henry was the father-figure to him. Henry took that job very seriously and tried to teach Bill about being a good man and I think he was pretty successful.”

Bill Long’s cousin Maxiene Bodgener
The Community Foundation currently supports rural communities in many ways through its granting programs. The creation of the Rural Life Fund will provide an additional $150,000 in grants focused on ensuring that rural communities continue to thrive. It was important to Bill that these communities offer residents the same opportunities as people living in urban centres. Other interested donors can also contribute to this fund.

Community Foundation President Dianne King

“We are more than delighted that Bill chose the Community Foundation to leave a legacy with and we want to celebrate that with our community,” says Community Foundation Board President Dianne King. “Philanthropy comes in many shapes and forms. Some people give very kindly of their time, of their talents, of their skills. Others are in a position that they are able to leave a financial legacy. When someone does give monetarily, they usually do it to improve the quality of life for individuals and to enhance their communities. I think Bill would be very pleased to know that the money he has given us will do all of those things.”

While Bill was alive, he wanted to see an example of the things that his donation would make possible. The Community Foundation started a bursary program for second year Agricultural Technology students at Lethbridge College. Five local students received funding in 2013 and each one plans to use their knowledge and skills to benefit rural communities.

Frank Jenkins, who knew both Bill and Henry his entire life and who now owns the Varley ranch, is happy to see the impact that the money will have on rural people and communities.

Family friend and neighbour Frank Jenkins
“I think everybody wants somehow to leave a legacy,” says Jenkins. “With Henry and Bill, neither one ever had children, neither one was every married, so this was a way that they could leave a legacy and promote rural living in Southern Alberta, as well as create opportunities for young people.”

He was also not surprised that Bill named the fund in honour of his uncle.

“Bill wasn’t interested in a legacy for himself, he was much too humble for that,” he explains. “I think it was for Henry.”

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